Thursday, August 29, 2013

Only in the Middle East

The laminator at my school is broken. Has been for three years. It may come as a surprise but I'm a tad picky about the appearance of my classroom and I hate wasting time making posters every year, so I like to laminate EVERYTHING so I don't have to reinvent the wheel. So last year nearly killed me because I didn't get to really set up my classroom the way I wanted because NOTHING WAS LAMINATED!

So I'm determined not to repeat history this year. No sir. If I have to go out and find a copy center that can do the laminating for me, by God I'm gonna do it! Which brings me today's story.

I'd been told there was a copy shop not far from our school and they could laminate my posters. The thing about Kuwait is the roads don't have names, so when you're told about a copy shop not far from your school, that's pretty much all the details you get. I was able to scrounge up the following information:

  • It was on the street behind one of the big malls nearby.
  • Directly across from the Marks and Spencer.
  • In a little strip mall/souq-esque kind of row of shops.
That's all. I had the name of a street, the name of a shop, and I knew what the logo looked like.

So off I went today on my mission. I couldn't find it as I stood on the sidewalk directly across the street from the Marks and Spencer, and when I stopped a few people to see if they could shed some light, they either didn't speak enough English or they directed me to the FedEx/Kinkos, which I had already tried with no luck.

So I wandered into an optical store that sold prescription sunglasses and other eyeware. There was a Filipino lady behind the counter and a Pakistani man sitting in the back corner. I figured between the two of them, someone had to know the place I was talking about. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: Hi, I'm looking for a copy shop that is somewhere nearby?

Lady: A what?

Me: A copy shop? It's called Kwik Kopy? They make photocopies of things [pantomimes hand going over paper in an ill fated attempt to recreate the act of Xeroxing.]

Man in the corner: What is it called?

Me: Kwik Kopy [pantomimes hand motion over head that is supposed to resemble a business marquee, but just comes off as poorly timed jazz hands]

Man: Oh. They went out of business.

Me: ...

Man: What do you need? You need copies?

Me: No, I'm looking for somewhere that can laminate some posters.

Man: Oh! We do that [stands up and walks behind the counter.]

Me: Oh! That's gr--here?! [looks around at all the displays of designer eye glasses]

Man: No, my other business.

Me: Oh!! Where is that shop?

Man: Downtown, but I can have my man take your things to the shop for you and you can get it back tomorrow.

So there you have it! A perfect example of how things work in the Middle East! Sometimes you walk into an eye glass store and find a guy who can laminate your classroom posters for you! And you can even haggle him down on the price while you're at it.

Hey man, if it gets my posters laminated, I'll take it!

Vicariously yours,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Down Side

In May, my uncle Bill died. It was completely unexpected and we were all shocked by the loss. My uncle Bill wasn't related to my parents and wasn't married to a relative. He and my aunt Becky were the family we chose. Close friends of my parents who love us like their own. I used to go to Thanksgiving dinner at their house when I was in college. I would stay up till 4 in the morning with Bill rehashing every. single. detail of what had happened in my life during the year since my last visit, my sides in stitches as he made his running commentary on all my stories. He made everyone laugh; he was always the life of every party he was invited to (and even some he wasn't!).

The phone call I got that day in May is the worst down side that the mister and I can think of with regards to living overseas. We have no control over family emergencies, but being overseas means we don't get to call out of work and take a long weekend to be with our loved ones. My throat still gets tight when I think about how I missed getting to hug my aunt Becky and lend a supportive hand when everyone was in town for the memorial service and then again for her daughter's wedding two weeks later. There's something to be said for being able to hold each other while you cry it out. Phone calls and FaceTime just don't cut it, and I am nagged by the feeling that my visit this summer was a case of too little too late. "I wish I could have been here..." just sounds so selfish.

The fear of unexpected deaths and family emergencies is enough to cripple some dreams of living abroad. The Mister and I knew the risks when we signed up for this gig. We talked a big talk about "Making sure everyone knows we love them" and laid out the pros and cons to friends who asked, "But aren't you worried that..." It was all so easy.

Until I got The Call.

And here I sit, on pins and needles because The Call is coming again, only this time I've been warned. My aunt Jackie, who has fought bravely against stomach cancer for almost a year, is losing the fight. Everyone in my family is pouring into my mom's hometown to say their goodbyes and hug her one last time.

Everyone except me.

I can't decide which is worse: knowing The Call is coming, thereby prolonging the guilt, or being surprised and experiencing a heart wrenching sense of loss.

Here is what I have decided:

  • I hate Facebook right now. Facebook is always a frenemy to expats. We are looking through the windows of friends who have had babies and are the strangers who comment "What a beautiful bundle of joy" instead of visiting in the hospital. We like the connected-ness, but at a time like this my biggest fear is signing in and finding out that my aunt has passed and no one remembered to call me.
  • I can't handle the sudden waves of guilt I'm hit with at random times throughout the day. My last conversation with my aunt this summer was rushed and trite. I was cheesy and casual. There are things I want to say and I probably never will and I have no idea how to deal with that.
  • The Mister is absolutely, beyond a doubt, the best partner I could have. He understands that cooking dinner gives me time to think, which means I'm usually crying and it's not because of the onions. He knows to just hug me and let me wipe my nose on his shirt. He knows nothing can make it better right now, so he simply tells me he loves me and doesn't ask "Is there anything I can do?" He has helped me start the grieving process even though my aunt hasn't passed yet because he knows there's not a plane that can get me home in time to grieve with the people I most want to be with. 
  • This is absolutely, beyond a doubt, the worst part of living overseas. It's the only down side, but it is a doozy. 
Vicariously yours,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Summer in the Books

I know, I know...It's been FOREVER! I apologize for the lengthy silence. We have been busy busy busy with summer travel and visiting all our loved ones. We decided to stay in Kuwait a few days after the mass exodus that tends to happen as soon as teachers are released for the summer. We took a little while to relax, do some laundry, and not be in a rush for once. Then we went home and put in as many miles as possible visiting grandparents, siblings, and family. Here's a quick overview of all we did this summer:

  • We installed a new shelf in our kitchen! This is very exciting, especially when you have a little storage as we do!
  • We visited my sister and brother-in-law in Boston and got to visit briefly with one of my best friends in her husband! My sister is pregnant, and due in November, so this was my one time to see the bump before I see the baby next year! 
  • We stopped in and had a quick meal-slash-night-of-revelry in DC with the Mister's sister and many of our close friends.
  • My in-laws hosted a fantastic cookout to celebrate our return to the States and even flew in my sister-in-law and a close family friend who we love dearly.
  • We played hours and hours of the Ellen DeGeneres game called "Heads Up" (available on iTunes) with family and laughed until our sides hurt.
  • I got a tattoo of the state of Tennessee and the state flag on the inside of my right arm.
  • We went to Tyler's family reunion in LA (lower Alabama).
  • I got my annual hair cut (Thanks, Courtney!)
  • Our friend Austin visited from Minnesota and we introduced him to the magical land of Dollywood. We also took him honky tonking and on a Jack Daniels Distillery tour. You know, all the best Tennessee has to offer.
  • We celebrated 5 years of marriage in the happiest place on Earth with our favorite groomsman on Earth. Our friend Matt met up with us in Orlando and with dined with Mickey and drank around the world at Epcot. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate.
  • Then it was off to South Carolina to visit with my grandparents and  my aunt Jackie who has been bravely fighting cancer for almost a year.
  • After that we went to visit my aunt Becky in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and it was wonderful to be back in the land of Spanish moss, flat marshlands, and some of my favorite people! 
  • A quick stopover in Atlanta allowed us to visit with my brother who was recently added to CNN's full time photo editing roster (no big deal, he's just awesomer than your brother).
  • Back to Tennessee for a few days to pack up for Kuwait and prepare a carry on that would take us to...
  • Hilton Head Island for a beach vacation with my parents. What a perfect way to send off from the States...
  • until we were delayed leaving the island, had to spend the night in Charlotte, returned to Nashville for 4 hours before starting our enormously long journey back to the land of sand.
Whew! Are we tired! Thankfully we compiled a video of all these highlights and more. We used the 1 Second Everyday app (the same one that we used for our spring break video). It's pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself.

Watch closely! It's a fast one!

Vicariously yours,